Dealing With Rejection And What Ifs

I hadn’t seen her in years, this girl, now woman, I’d crushed on from my tweens all through the end of high school. We’re both happily married. We both have beautiful kids. But when I saw her wondrous smile I time-warped back to the 80s, back to when I was 13, back to the roller skating rink with its flashing colored lights and squeaky floor. Duran Duran on the speakers. Back to the day when I asked her out and she said no, a day of such demoralizing rejection that it marked the last time I asked a girl out until my mid-20s, though the development of my gynecomastia played an enormous role as well.

She pointed to my blue t-shirt, the one that boasts the National At-Home Dad Network‘s logo, and congratulated me on my blog, my reading at Dad 2.0, my family, as her children taught Sienna how to color on an IPad. I offered up my usual sheepish thanks. She told me how much she wanted to meet Elaine and called Sienna adorable. And then she put a hand on each side of my face causing the anxiety pains in my chest to surge.

“You look so sad. Don’t look so sad.”

“It’s my perennial look,” I semi-joked.

I’d started halfway between the room and the roller rink, simultaneously Sienna and her kids’ laughter and the bleeps and bloops of ancient arcade games, but now that sting of rejection threatened to suffocate me as my brain screamed WHY NOW?? WHY COULDN’T YOU HAVE SAID YES AND CARESSED MY FACE BACK THEN??? and I silently yelled back to JUST SHUT UP FOR ONCE!!

Because I no longer wanted her in any way other than as a friend. I love my wife and my daughter more than anything in this world. But still that haunting pain of repudiation and its buddy, fear. Still the what if scenarios.

What if she’d said yes? Even if we’d only gone on one date, most likely a chaperoned stint to the movies, would my fear of rejection regarding not just females, but of life, have developed into these massive walls that still rebut all compliments and acceptance, but remain tender enough to let the smallest slight or possible abandonment drown me in a monsoon of depression and fear?

I don’t know. I’ll never know. Does it matter?

At 13 I already felt rejected by my father because he favored my sister (as always, I must state that my dad is a totally different person now). I already felt like a failure in school particularly because my 3rd grade teacher called me that to my face. Gynecomastia already held my self-esteem in its powerful grip. Bullies already sensed my fragility. I’d yet to hear from one of my so-called friends that this girl thought everyone in our class was cool except me. My friends had yet to turn against me, but they would in time…twice. I’d yet to be continuously ignored and dismissed by my University of Michigan college housemates because they’d rather binge drink than spend even one night at the movies with me. The letter from the UMich creative writing program thanking, but not thanking me had yet to be opened causing me to act the maudlin cliché, locking myself in my room for hours with Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” on repeat.

So much more rejection to come. So many more un-acted-upon crushes left in my mind’s darkness. So many stories and essays left unsent. So much more outright- and self-torment. My first panic attack awaited me 19 years down the road. My first nervous breakdown a mere months later.

What if?

What if seeing her elicited only pure joy at reuniting with an old friend instead of bringing back decades old sadness leading to a body brimming with anxiety? What if my ears picked up just her sunny voice and our children’s glittering laughter instead of also hearing the echoing squeals of roller skates? What if my 40-year-old self saw just a married woman with two wonderful kids so happy for and proud of me instead of a 12-year-old girl shaking her head?

What if I can rip off these tough scales of negativity, of pessimism, of fear and accept praise. What if I could feel deserving? What would that be like?

Because I really want to know.

And it’s time I do.

2 thoughts on “Dealing With Rejection And What Ifs

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    February 23, 2014 at 9:29pm

    Everything is part of the journey. Who knows how your life would be if you would have had the one date? However, you do know how your life is now and that is happily married and with wonderful daughter.
    I know what it is like to be shy around girls when I was kid. Many of us do.
    I hope you can be friends with her now – if that’s what you want.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Lorne Jaffe

      February 24, 2014 at 12:15pm

      Thanks Larry. Def want to be friends with her. Never stopped being friends with her. I hope she’s ok with this post. Trying to concentrate on the fact that all of these “missed opportunities” led me to Elaine and Sienna, but it’s tough when the monkey mind starts going. That’s why my mind’s always fighting

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